It was no child's play this time. With Beatrice, to love once was to love forever, with fervor and intensity which cold and worldly natures can not even understand.
The time came when Lord Airlie stood out distinct from all the world, when the sound of his name was like music, when she saw no other face, heard no other voice, thought of nothing else save him. He began to think there might be some hope for him; the proud, beautiful face softened and brightened for him as it did for no other, and the glorious dark eyes never met his own, the frank, bright words died away in his presence. Seeing all these things, Lord Airlie felt some little hope.
For the first time he felt proud and pleased with the noble fortune and high rank that were his by birthright. He had not cared much for them before; now he rejoiced that he could lavish wealth and luxury upon one so fair and worthy as Beatrice Earle.
Lord Airlie was not a confident lover. There were times when he felt uncertain as to whether he should succeed. Perhaps true and reverential love is always timid. Lord Earle had smiled to himself many long weeks at the "pretty play" enacted before him, and Lady Helena had wondered when the young man would "speak out" long before Lord Airlie himself presumed to think that the fairest and proudest girl in London would accept him.
No day ever passed during which he did not manage to see her. He was indefatigable in finding out the balls, soirees, and operas she would attend. He was her constant shadow, never happy out of her sight, thinking of her all day, dreaming of her all night, yet half afraid to risk all and ask her to be his wife, lest he should lose her.
To uninterested speculators Lord Airlie was a handsome, kindly, honorable young man. Intellectual, somewhat fastidious, lavishly generous, a great patron of fine arts; to Beatrice Earle he was the ideal of all that was noble and to be admired. He was a prince among men. The proud heart was conquered. She loved him and said to herself that she would rather love him as a neglected wife than be the worshiped wife of any other man.
She had many admirers; "the beautiful Miss Earle" was the belle of the season. Had she been inclined to coquetry or flirtation she would not have been so eagerly sought after. The gentlemen were quite as much charmed by her utter indifference and haughty acceptance of their homage as by her marvelous beauty.
At times Beatrice felt sure that Lord Airlie loved her; then a sudden fit of timidity would seize her young lover, and again she would doubt it. One thing she never doubted--her own love for him. If her dreams were all false, and he never asked her to be his wife, she said to herself that she would never be the wife of any other man.